How to Handle a Problem With Your Engine Control Module



Does it seem like there's an issue with your car's engine control module?

You don't need to be a mechanic to know what to do when engine control module issues come up. All you need is a step-by-step guide to walk you through how to handle the problem.

That's why we've put together this handy guide so you'll know exactly what do to when you're having ECM trouble. Read on to find out what you need to know!

What is an Engine Control Module?

In modern cars, computers are responsible for a lot.

If you have a really old car with nothing digital in it, you probably don't even have an ECM. But all new cars from the past few decades have an engine control module, which is hardware that keeps your car working right.

This module is in charge of regulating, monitoring, and adjusting everything related to your car's engine, keeping it running smoothly.

In your ordinary computer, the motherboard keeps the memory chip, DVD drives, displays, and storage in order. Think of the engine control module as being like a motherboard for your car.

From electrics to fuel to handling, the ECM is in charge of it all. This has replaced the mechanical and manual systems that once kept cars going.

How Does the ECM Work?

The ECM keeps the engine going by monitoring, adjusting, and regulating functions as needed. For example, the ECM keeps tabs on your car's oxygen sensors, so it can tell when the cylinders are getting the proper mix of air and fuel for your car to function.

If it notes that something is off with the air-fuel mix, the ECM can tell the fuel injection system to make the necessary changes.

Many newer cars also use ECM as part of the throttle control system. When you put your foot on the gas, the ECM gets the signal, and gets the vehicle going the speed you want by putting the right amount of fuel in the system.

The ECM tracks your emissions, so you can be sure you're meeting proper emissions standards. It also can help let you know if your car needs to be repaired.

How Can You Tell if There's an ECM Issue?

Since the ECM is responsible for monitoring your car and reporting when repairs are needed, how can you know if there's an issue with the ECM itself?

Typically, ECM problems don't look or sound like most standard engine problems. When something is wrong with a car, we often hear it making a strange sound or emitting smoke or exhaust.

With these common symptoms, the issue is usually mechanical, not related to the ECM. However, the ECM can often help diagnose the problem: it may give you an error code so you can know what part of the car is having problems.

Diagnosing the ECM Problem

It's rare for the engine control module to have problems of its own, but it does happen sometimes. If you've ruled out any possible mechanical problems, you need to look to the computer to see if it's causing the problem.

However, if you suspect the ECM is the problem, you'll probably want to call a professional for a diagnosis and fix. This isn't something you can repair on your own (most of the time).

You won't always get an alert when the ECM is failing, but sometimes, the check engine light can be a sign. Lowered performance or a drop in fuel efficiency can also be a sign of ECM problems.

Most of the time, though, you have to figure out that the ECM is the problem through the process of elimination.

If you're experienced with cars, you can check the mechanical components for issues first before deciding to fix the ECM. If not, you may need to take the car to a shop - but make sure to let them know if you think the ECM might be the issue.

How ECMs Get Repaired

If you're comfortable with both circuit boards and cars, you might be able to do this repair on your own. However, most people find it's best to let a professional take care of the work.

It's very complicated to repair and ECM. Even professional mechanics who are familiar with the systems find that they might not have the right knowledge, materials, or time to fix them.

Replacing Your ECM

Should you repair or replace the engine control module?

Since repairs are so difficult and require so much specialty knowledge, it's almost always better to replace an ECM instead.

Luckily, taking out a faulty ECM and adding a new one is a fairly easy process. It still takes some special tools and knowledge to do the replacement - but you might be able to do it at home.

These systems aren't made to be repaired - they're designed to break down rarely, and be replaced if they do. You'll save a lot of time and money by simply getting the ECM replaced instead of trying to repair it.

If you want to replace it on your own, you'll need to start by finding the correct ECM that corresponds with your engine.

Next, open the hood and disconnect the battery. Find the current ECM - it will be either under the front seats or in the engine compartment. It's typically a silver rectangle.

Disconnect the electricity from the ECM itself. Use a wrench to unbolt the screws that hold it in place, then pull it out and put the new one in its place.

Tighten the screws, and plug the electricity into the new ECM. Reconnect the cables to the battery and make sure they're tight. Then turn your car on and let it idle for a few minutes. Your ECM should work as good as new - because it is new.

Do You Need a New ECM?

Replacing the ECM is a fairly easy bit of maintenance you can do on your own.

Looking for the right ECM for your vehicle? Check out our selection - we even have international ECMS.

Posted On: 27/04/2018

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